SLO film festival upgrades beer and wine from the menu to the big screen

A scene from “Craft: A California Beer Documentary,” which will be shown Thursday night at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
A scene from “Craft: A California Beer Documentary,” which will be shown Thursday night at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

Beer, wine and food are moving from the refreshment stand to the big screen at this year’s San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

The four-day festival, which has long highlighted regional culture through surf and outdoor films, celebrates San Luis Obispo County’s food, beer and wine this year with a bigger opening night event and more food and beverage-related screenings and panel discussions.

“We’re stepping it up as far as a focus on our local food, wine and beer and making it more like a party,” said Wendy Eidson, the festival’s director. “Movies are fantastic on their own, but the festival is also about coming together accented by those things and a party feeling.”

That party kicks off Tuesday with a Mardi Gras-themed evening with food from 15 local chefs and more than a dozen local wines and beers followed by a screening of 2013 SLOIFF Spotlight Award recipient Leslie Iwerks’ new film about one of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants.

Such events also serve to show off the food, beer and wine produced here on the Central Coast, Eidson said.

“It’s a great opportunity to be seen by an influential crowd,” she said.

The county’s growing craft beer scene is the focus of the Central Coast Brew-Ha-Ha at 7 p.m Thursday, featuring beer samples from SLO Brew, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Libertine Brewing Co. and Blast 825 Taproom at the Fremont Theatre before a showing of “Craft: A California Beer Documentary.”

It’s a great opportunity to be seen by an influential crowd.

Wendy Eidson, director of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

The film chronicles the state’s renowned beer culture and the role of breweries such as Firestone Walker in driving the craft beer movement. Following the film, Firestone’s brewmaster, Matt Brynildson, joins SLO Brew’s Steve Courier, Libertine’s Stephen Ruddy and Blast’s Dan Harper in a panel discussion on the past, present and future of craft brewing in the region with filmmaker Jeff Smith. Admission is $12, and is free for festival pass holders.

After a successful collaboration last year, the film festival is again joining forces with the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance to include a wine movie as part of the festivities, kicking off the Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend on Friday.

“It gives people coming for the wine festival a little taste of what we’re doing, too,” Eidson said. “We decided to combine rather than compete.”

The evening starts at 5:30 p.m. with Zinposium, an overview of Paso zinfandels with master sommelier Peter Neptune and half a dozen local winemakers at the Paso Robles Inn. That will be followed by a screening of “The Wine Life,” a tale of Colin West’s adventures in winemaking across Australia, at the Park Cinemas at 7 p.m. The Z After Party wraps up the night back at the inn with a zinfandel tasting with 20 local wineries, desserts and live music.

Tickets for the movie are $12, with Mogul passes accepted. Zinposium and Z After Party tickets are $40 each, or $70 for both at Find the full festival schedule, including more food-related films, at

Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at or on Twitter @sallybuffalo.

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